One of the perks of a Fortune 100 enterprise is having a budget sufficient to hire big brand, big thinking consultants. Outside help to tackle challenges beyond the current team’s capacity. For smaller companies and thinner budgets, there are boutique consulting firms who are specialized and can affordably solve specific issues. For example, Altus Alliance supports new ventures with a revenue focus to define and validate the best sales strategy. If neither of these options are feasible, you are left to figure out the challenge yourself.
When you break down what an effective consultant brings to an engagement you see a systematic approach developed from repeatedly being dropped into situations to quickly assess, assemble a plan and execute. Beyond a proven methodology, consultants also have a unique perspective and behavior that completes the value and drives the results. Below are five key concepts developed and observed over the last 15 years that will improve your ability to tackle company challenges by changing your behavior from operating mode to consultant mode:
Outside-In: Arguably the biggest benefit of a consultant is a clear outsider’s perspective. When I look at a sales organization or go-to-market strategy, my perception is grounded in the market at large and what is happening in 30 other similar organizations right now. I am not invested in what shaped it or emotionally tied to anyone or anything around it. Feedback from an outsider is pure and honest vs. filtered or altered knowing an inside response may have ramifications. The “forest and trees” syndrome is familiar to all of us, but it’s very hard to change those dynamics. If you can’t afford the outsider, simply inject a true outsider’s perspective by having different departments/groups help you assess the situation. It’s also helpful to get comparable data for context and analysis against your findings. It is surprisingly easy and effective to reach out to your contacts in other companies and get their perspective. This benefits both sides and always yields amazing insights about what you should be doing.
Shoot Straight: Comparing my years as a corporate executive vs. the last decade as a consultant, I am clearly more direct and candid than I ever was in the corporate world. As a hired perspective-giver I am paid to be brutally honest everyday about everything. While my experience gives me the confidence in the situation, it’s the freedom of not worrying about the political consequences that changes the behavior. It took time to be fully liberated and unfiltered, but I keep seeing the benefits and praise every time the elephant in the room gets uncovered and highlighted. Carry this forward to everyone’s role when examining a specific challenge. You (and the company culture) need to be 100% honest, hyper critical and remove all consequences from any negative feedback. The result will be positive for the project, the team, and yourself.
Speak with Visuals: When results and deliverables are the absolute focus, consultants have found it is best to convey big thoughts and change through pictures. Knowing my clients’ crazy schedules, I try to reduce nearly every concept, product and business model to a simple visual backed with a verbal explanation. The practice forces me to simplify the concept to its core and the iteration process always refines the final solution. Plus, with whiteboards everywhere you can drive your message in 1:1’s and small groups refining each time and leaving memorable visuals everywhere. By describing as you illustrate, your audience follows along for better understanding and retention. It becomes a dialogue vs. the monologue of a document, and the feedback and inclusion helps to create evangelizers of the plan. I truly believe if you can’t illustrate your vision on a whiteboard it will never be conveyed for execution internally or sold externally.
Author: Doug Schulze, Managing Partner